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Sandy Journal

Indian Hills Middle community supports 5-year-old with cancer

Mar 31, 2023 10:45AM ● By Julie Slama

Indian Hills Middle student leaders fundraised for Nathan, seen on Cosmo’s shoulders, to grant his Make-aA-Wish; he and his family came to a recent school assembly. (Photo courtesy of Camille Christensen)

Thanks to the Indian Hills Middle School community, a Utah boy will be able to live his dream.

“Nathan is a cute little 5-year-old who has leukemia,” Indian Hills National Junior Honors Society adviser Andrea Smith said. “Make-A-Wish has a resort with Disney World and it’s only for Make-A-Wish families. He saw that they have a life-size Candyland playground and that’s his favorite game so he’s excited.”

Before the end of their fundraising campaign for Nathan, the middle school students and their families had raised $13,000, surpassing their $10,000 goal.

For at least six years, they’ve committed to helping Make-A-Wish children.

“This is a way for our kids to think outside of themselves and realize that there are people out there in need and unite them in helping someone else, which is something that middle schoolers children, in general, are trying to learn how to do,” she said. “It’s our way to give back to the community.”

Smith said by working together to raise funds for others in need connects the school.

“There’s also a little bit of antagonism as we raise funds through our penny wars with each grade uniting to sabotage other grades through donations of money. For example, $1 coins count positive, but quarters, nickels, dimes, all count negatives so students put them in another grade level’s jar to reduce their score, but in the end it’s all money going to Nathan,” she said.

To donate, some students raised their own money. Smith said she learned a couple students sold hot chocolate in their neighborhood and traditionally, students have donated funds from babysitting or doing chores at home to help with Make-A-Wish

Once students hit their goal, they are rewarded with activities such as an “opportunity to groove to music or watch a movie in the kiva,” Smith said. 

In addition, teachers have volunteered to either cut or dye their hair as incentives. There also are experiences for students such as a chalk the walk, a cuddle up and read, a Mario Kart marathon, and Super Smash Bros. day.

At the final assembly, Nathan was scheduled to come to Indian Hills as well as Cosmo, Brigham Young University’s mascot.

“Nathan’s a big BYU fan, specifically football and soccer so we thought that would be fun for him,” Smith said. 

Also planned were some yet-to-be-announced opportunities for students to get involved. In the past, they’ve thrown pies in teachers faces, guessed songs within 10 seconds, picked up spaghetti without breaking it and other challenges.

Throughout the fundraising campaign, Indian Hills’ National Junior Honors Society chapter partnered with PTSA. 

In addition to Make-A-Wish, NJHS oversaw a schoolwide food drive last fall which Smith said brought in 5,700 items for the Utah Food Bank. They also are in charge of paper recycling at the school. PTSA delivers food to the teachers during parent-teacher conferences and helps to promote schoolwide activities.